May 24, 2021
OK for vaccinated employees to return in Washington – except farm workers

Washington state’s leading agricultural groups say Gov. Jay Inslee has a double standard for farmers and their vaccinated workers following his announcement on Friday that fully vaccinated employees do not have to wear a mask or socially distance at work.

Contributing to the confusion, Gov. Inslee ignored a legal deadline which required him to inform the agricultural groups whether he would let stand a COVID-19 regulation that contradicts his new state reopening guidance for businesses.

Washington Farm Bureau chief executive John Stuhlmiller and wafla executive director Dan Fazio issued the following joint statement:

“On Friday Gov. Inslee provided updated guidance to employers that vaccinated employees do not have to wear a mask or socially distance at work. What he failed to disclose is these new rules do not apply to farmers and their vaccinated workers that live in temporary housing.

“As the 2021 harvest season launches, this double standard for the agricultural community is not based on current science, is creating widespread confusion and is financially catastrophic. It’s unfair the state continues to enforce significant fines against farmers using the COVID regulations despite the governor’s guidance.

“Farmers across the state have been leading a comprehensive worker safety program focused on widespread testing and vaccination.  As a result, the CDC has recognized that farm worker facilities in Washington state are three times safer than local communities, achieving a nearly 100% vaccination rate.

“Despite this, on May 9 the state automatically renewed restrictive emergency farm worker rules for the third time. Following Gov. Inslee’s announcement on May 13 that he was reopening the state using new CDC guidance, to date he has not followed the law and responded to our written request to repeal the COVID-19 rules.

“Farmers have always made safety a top priority. We have done the right thing by enhancing worker safety through testing and achieving among the highest vaccinations rates in the nation. The governor says he is following science. It is deeply disappointing that he won’t follow it for farmers.

“The crippling emergency regulations will be in place during the heart of the harvest season unless the governor acts. We are calling on him to follow the law and treat farmers like he has the rest of the business community and lift these economically devastating restrictions.”

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